U.S. Water News Online
CALERA, Ala. -- Police Sgt. Angela Velarde is looking for
wet grass and wash buckets, clues of the latest crime wave sweeping
this bone-dry town.
With much of the Southeast in the grip of a drought unlike any
seen for generations, police are enforcing mandatory watering bans in
many areas where water supplies have fallen to critical levels.
For Velarde, the job means driving through neighborhoods with
brown grass and wilted flowers. She keeps an eye out for telltale
signs of watering scofflaws: grass that's damp on sunny days when
watering is banned; clean cars sitting in wet driveways under
Officers on the "water detail" work day and night because some
people in this town of 11,000 are going to the extreme of night
Police write about a dozen tickets a week and have even caught
homeowners sneaking outdoors to water their brown, crunchy lawns at 1
"It's almost like people are thinking like drug dealers trying to
come up with ways to water," said Velarde. Violators can be fined as
much as $500 in city court.
Located about 30 miles south of Birmingham, Calera isn't the only
city where police are spending less time looking for speeders and
more time looking for waterers. Similar patrols are under way in
metro Atlanta, Florida and Texas, among other dried-out locales.
Officers will soon begin enforcing watering restrictions in
Birmingham. And officers in another suburb, Hoover, are handing out
letters to people who ignore that city's restrictions.
Hoover police spokesman A.C. Roper said police get a few calls
every week from neighbors reporting on neighbors for watering on days
when it's prohibited.
"It's like they're thinking, `If my grass is going to be brown,
yours is, too,"' said Roper, a deputy chief.
The same thing is true in Calera, where the restrictions took
effect last month.
"There's no honor among neighbors," said Velarde.
Calera bans all watering on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and
residents with an even-numbered address can water once daily for two
hours on Mondays and Thursday. People with an odd-numbered address
get to water on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Five people paid fines for watering violations last year, when the
ban also was in place, but no one has appeared in city court this
year so far on the charge. Officials say the ban has helped the city
keep water in its storage tanks, which hold 7 million gallons.
Nelvin Wade said she has quit watering everything but a few potted
flowers at her house, and her neighbors seem to have given up, too.
"Everything looks brown to me," said Wade, working at a small
produce stand near downtown.
All of Alabama and most of the Southeast is experiencing a severe
drought, with rainfall deficits of as much as 20 inches for the year
recorded in areas. Forecasters say a drought of such intensity occurs
once every 50 to 100 years.
the U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.